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La Amistad Park
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-10-25 20:22:05 | Las Nubes, Chiriqui, Panama
Keywords: nature, park, UNESCO
La Amistad (the friendship) is a huge natual bi-national park on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. Incidently, Panama also has a joint international park with its other neighbour (Colombia), which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. But don't cont on me to visit the Darien park, it's the most dangerous area in the region. Like most natural UNESCO sites in Central America, the access into the park La Amistad is very difficult and very few tourists go in there. That is good the preservation of the site, but hard to appreciate it.

From Costa Rica, I tried to access the park both from the North and the South.... but impossible unless you have a car, because public transportation won't get you close to the various park entrances. Once I crossed into Panama, I was able to access one entrance from the city of David.

Extreme diversity

Not being a botanist, zoologist, bird watcher or any kind of nature expert, it's hard for me to fully understand and appreciate the importance of the biodiversity present there and how it makes it different from the next tropical forest outside of the park. But La Amistad is often recognized as the most diverse ecosystem on the planet, no other site of its size can be compared to it apparently.

Beyond the fauna and vegetation, the nature left its imprint in other ways too. The park includes the Talamanca mountain range... which is the highest non-volcanic range in Central America. Those mountains also have the particularity of having been carved by the last glaciation period, some 25 000 years ago, that's the only known spot of traces of glaciation in Central America. Because of its extreme variations in altitudes (ranging roughly from 1 000 m to 4 000m), it hosts a large series of different environment types and of micro-climates zones.

The trail I took

It's so dense and mostly inaccessible that yet no serious exploration has been done inside the park's limit to find traces pre-hispanic inhabitants. But very close outside the park, they found traces of human occupation dating more than 12 000 years!

One of the things that are easy to observe to the non-scientific though is that the park is a cloud forest. It's fascinating to see the all the humidity stored in the trees evaporate and form clouds as soon as the Sun is present. That also means the weather changes often and quickly. I arrived at the park entrance (located at about 2 200 m of altitude) it was sunny. About an hour later, rain began. I was in an almost totally natural trail (some wood or cement steps were placed in the toughest spots) in the mountains. I climbed about 200 m when rain began and I decided to return to the ranger station waiting for my taxi at the previously-arranged hour. On my way down, I did slip. I didn't injured myself... but I broke my Android tablet :-(

Force of nature

The area just below the park entrance was totally devastated 2 months ago by a major landslide and flooding that took away bridges over many kilometres as well as many dozens of homes and stores (including the only restaurant at the entrance of the park). It will take years to recover from that event. When I was there last week, it was still the rainy season... so they can't begin any major work, the ground being too fragile... they put temporary bridges and you can see the huge scar along the river as thousands of rocks as big as cars were just carried away by the flow of water.

The landslide and floodings occured two months before.

The international park was officially added to the World Heritage List in 1990, but most of the area was already on the Biosphere List since 1983.

Related posts:
Isla de la plata
Belize Reef Barrier
Monarch butterfly biosphere reserve
Canadian Rockies mountains parks
Olympic national park


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